Does New York even need a food festival? The city is packed with authentic flavours on every corner. But that doesn't stop chef Mario Batali (and a slew of other celeb and top-restaurant cooks) from joining the Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival (nycwff.org) running Oct. 16 to Oct. 19.
"This is my town," says Batali, whose culinary empire includes 10 New York restaurants, including his flagship Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca, and the artisanal Italian markets Eataly (which he recommends below). "I'm excited to meet and work with so many interesting talents. And no other food festival, to my knowledge, has Joe Namath involved. Simply amazing."
Batali and the NFL Hall of Famer are working together on a rooftop barbecue during the festival called Jets+Chefs: The Ultimate Tailgate. But if you can't make it to his party, here are a few other places he loves to eat in New York.
"I love Buvette. It's in the heart of the West Village – and now open in Paris, too – and perfect for breakfast. Chef Jody Williams is a genius. Though it's well known now among food enthusiasts, it still feels like a quaint and comfortable hidden gem. She has a way with eggs, steamed using the cappuccino machine, that makes an omelette defunct." 42 Grove St., ilovebuvette.com
Pearl Oyster Bar
"Pearl Oyster Bar, also in the Village, is my favourite for seafood. I love sitting at the counter with some fresh oysters and a cold glass of white wine, followed by a skate sandwich or whatever else seems directly from the fish market. White-washed wainscoting and a clean tile floor make Pearl feel like it's been there a century. It is perfect for both a civilized lunch or for a late-night lobster roll." 18 Cornelia St., pearloysterbar.com
Russ & Daughters
"Russ & Daughters on the Lower East Side is quintessential New York. It's been around forever and they just opened a café around the corner that is equally excellent. I'm a huge fan of their entire menu. I love their pickled herring and smoked sturgeon. The sleeper is the excellent cocktail list, including a 'shrub' made with pickled beet vinegar – yum!" Shop: 179 East Houston St., russanddaughters.com; Café: 127 Orchard St., russanddaughterscafe.com
"It's a market, restaurant and food destination all rolled into one beautiful store. Despite being in the Flatiron District of New York, you'll hear Italian spoken as if you're in a piazza in Montalcino. Go for the prime rib sammie at the rosticceria, and carry a glass of wine from the piazza, then finish with a small cone of pistachio gelato and an espresso from Vergnano." 200 Fifth Ave., eataly.com/nyc
"If you're willing to splurge big time, this is simply the best sushi there is. I love to sit at the counter and go for a long leisurely lunch during the week. If you still have money in your pocket after, you can spend it at the Time Warner Center." 10 Columbus Circle, masanyc.com
This interview has been edited and condensed.